West Side News

Columbus City Schools

School board candidates discuss issues

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Three incumbent Columbus City Schools Board of Education members will try to retain their seats in the midst of a data-scrubbing scandal and pursuit of a controversial tax levy that critics say is too expensive.

Incumbents Mike Wiles, Hanifah Kambon and Ramona Reyes will face Dominic Paretti, Beverly Corner and Michael D. Cole in the Nov. 5 contest.

Also on the ballot are Issue 50, a 9.01-mill combination operating levy/bond issue and Issue 51, which would create the position of independent auditor for the district.

Wiles, 57, said he's running again to ensure all voters, from parents to those who own businesses, "re-establish ownership of their neighborhood schools and feeder patterns."

Wiles, a truck driver who lives on the South Side, said the district has more work to do to win the trust of taxpayers.

For example, the district recently sent four board members to a conference in Albuquerque, N.M., at a cost of $9,000, not to mention rental of facilities for meetings and other costs, some of which Wiles sees as extraneous.

"None of those things would have amounted to enough to not need some sort of operating levy, but it would have, in my opinion, inspired confidence that we are conserving wherever we can," Wiles said.

Kambon, a retired teacher for CCS, said the district could do a better job communicating its strengths and weaknesses to the public.

"While the graduation rate has been increasing, we must do better," said Kambon, 61, of the Near East Side.

"While we have high-performing pockets in the district, there are still scholarly achievements happening at many of our schools.

"But, let us show you how we are doing better and dealing with a population that is labeled as 85 percent poverty."

Cole, of the Far East Side, said children "should have the best to perform at their best.

"My aims are to ensure there is a cultural change in the leadership and management of CCS that strengthens student achievement, employee performance as well as accountability between the district and community," said Cole, 40, a public-affairs consultant who has two children in the district.

Paretti, who lives in German Village, said he believes the board simply needs new leadership to bring trust and public engagement to the table.

"I believe in parental involvement, post-secondary enrollment options for career readiness and early childhood education," said Paretti, 32, who's a legislative aide for state Rep. Barbara Boyd, D-Cleveland Heights.

"I believe that education does not begin or end in the classroom. It exists in our communities -- in our homes, our churches, our businesses and our non-profits."

Paretti said he supports both Issue 50, which would raise property taxes by 23.5 percent, and Issue 51, but has some reservations about roughly 1 mill, or $8.5 million a year, that would go to high-performing charter schools, as determined by the district.

However, he said he trusts the process.

"As a person running for the board, you have to understand there's a lot of compromise, a lot of people at the table for this," he said. "You don't want fewer resources."

Corner, however, said she will not support the levy, in part, because of the charter school issue.

"If they don't do that (meet the standards), where does that money go?" said Corner, 51, who lives on the North Side.

Corner, an attorney in private practice, said now is not the time to ask for more money.

"I think we need to restructure things before the taxpayers have to pay more money," she said.

Corner also is upset the district, via taxpayers, has to pay for the data-scrubbing scandal, in which employees are accused of manipulating student records to improve their schools' standings on state report cards.

"Why do we have to pay for their cheating?" she said. "I don't like that."

The district was hit with some bad news this year when it was issued four F's, three D's and two C's on the state report card.

Reyes, 43, called the results "unacceptable."

"I have long been an advocate of efforts to provide every principal and teacher the information about every student of theirs that needs help and believe we should provide the resources and flexibility to assist principals and teachers prepare students to succeed," said Reyes, a Northwest Side resident and human resources specialist at Nationwide Insurance.

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